Get a Front Row Seat to Surviving a Storm with Rick and Karen Santorum

Friends!  I recently caught a fascinating interview with Senator Rick Santorum on the Eric Metaxas Show.

I’ve always respected Rick immensely and didn’t realize he’s currently a Senior Political Commentator on  CNN.  He’s on Anderson Cooper and on Chris Cuomo and one of the morning shows each week!  (Which rock have I been under?)

The other wonderful discovery from Eric Metaxas’ show was learning about a book Rick and his wife, Karen, wrote called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation. (Their daughter, Elizabeth, helped them write the book.)

As with many of Eric’s guests who write books, upon hearing the interview, I immediately ordered the book.  Reading the book is like you’re sitting down with Rick and Karen (each of them have written several chapters) while they walk us through a whale of a storm they experienced and continue to live with each day.

Parents to eight children, one of which died soon after he was born (Gabriel—his death was their first storm they encountered prior to the current one they’re enduring. Karen wrote a book about Gabriel and their experience:  Letters to Gabriel), we see how their last child, Bella, impacts the entire family which is hugely miraculous.

Bella was born with Trisomy 18.  Most babies born with this condition don’t survive more than a few days. You’ll be astonished at some of the doctors Bella had who never called her by name, wrote her off as untreatable, considered her not worth their time, while calling her “incompatible with life.”

The first few days of Bella’s life were frightening to say the least, charting unknown territory.  Karen says, “A strong prayer chain strengthened and sustained us. Our families and friends were the hands of Christ during her hospitalization.”  And you can see how they remain strong week in and week out throughout the book.

The Mama Bear in me surfaced quickly and Karen, more than once, called this instinct we moms have her “inner Grizzly Bear.”  Happy with relief over finally finding docs who were on board, compassionate, and who gave Bella wonderful care, Rick and Karen brought Bella home where she’s blossomed, has six siblings who adore her and I’m happy to report is now eleven years old!

Frightening trips to the hospital keep the Santorum family on their toes, along with multi-faceted daily care for Bella.  How did they survive the early years and how do they keep putting one foot forward every day? And how in the world did Rick run for President during all of this?  (You must read the book to find out!)

You will be inspired by bold faith, gut-level honesty, and pearls of wisdom both Rick and Karen generously share.  Additionally, you may wonder (and marvel) at how they held their marriage together.  Plus you will never look at a special-needs child the same again, that I can promise.  The Santorum’s teach us, “We see that value is not determined by what society calls ‘usefulness,’ but, rather, value is measured by our capacity to love.”

While each of the eighteen chapters has the word “love” in its title, each offers a glimpse at the many ways love affects us and how we can learn to emulate this beautiful kind of God-given love toward one another.

My two favorite chapters are Chapter 13:  Love Unifies (by Karen) and Chapter 14: Love Encourages Selflessness (by Rick).

In Chapter 13, Karen reveals advice she gives newlyweds based on her own marriage and experiences.  She says, “It’s good to understand that marriage is never 50-50. Sometimes, whether it’s emotional, physical, or spiritual, one of you will need the encouragement and strength of the other. You will give 90 %. …Believe and love each other through the imbalances. …because there’s no room for selfishness in marriage.”

She quotes Ephesians 4:26 as their go-to verse:  “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Karen says when they do have a conflict, Rick always says, “I’m not going anywhere, so let’s just work it out.” I love that and Karen closes with, “Amen.”

Karen and Rick emphasize the importance of family in every chapter.  Because their children were old enough to take on many chores, etc., they were a huge help to Karen managing the care for Bella.  She grew up in a large family and she says,

The Santorums consider Bella a gift to their family for a lot of reasons, and Karen says, “One of the most important reasons was to revisit and strengthen my understanding of love through the fear of loss…Rick and I both understood that ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.’” (I John 4:18)

Last week I wrote about a book by Lloyd John Ogilvie called Facing the Future without FearPrescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium.  Lloyd was the Chaplain to the Senate during the time Rick was a Senator.  In Rick and Karen’s book, Rick credits Lloyd, along with a priest, for transforming his faith. You will see in each chapter how strong their faith is which helps them navigate this storm they’re enduring.  God’s impeccable timing is nothing short of miraculous.

Karen closes Chapter 13 with, “Our love for each other and for our Lord has unified us through all the ups and downs. The twists and turns of life have brought us even closer together.” This chapter is inspirational and filled with words of wisdom on the loss of a child, on surviving a storm, and on how to preserve your marriage.  As with each of the chapters, it offers multiple Bible verses (she calls them “sacred Scripture”) you’ll want to write in your journal asap.

Regarding their storm, Karen said, “Venturing into uncharted, stormy seas, my vessel was my faith, and it separated me from the sea of madness and sorrow.”

In Chapter 14, Rick speaks about the importance of family and shows us how “Love Encourages Selflessness.”  He says, “Families are the foundation of society, so when families are healthy, so is the country.” We get to learn of Rick’s childhood and how he saw what it meant for family to come first.

Rick addresses selflessness both in families and in marriage. He teaches us the acronym for FAMILY:  “Forget About Me I Love You.”

Rick once had the opportunity to meet Saint Teresa of Calcutta.  She said something he never forgot, “God does not call on you to do great things; He calls on you to do little things with great love.”

Chapter 15, “Love Begets Peace,” opens with a lovely quote from Madeline L’Engle:

I am certain Rick and Karen have been a beautiful visual of the light of Christ to scores of people they’ve encountered. Whether it was in the political arena, or in hospitals or doctors offices where they’ve  been with Bella, their light from our Lord is causing many to want what they have.

It’s no coincidence Karen used to be a neonatal intensive care nurse. More than once, when they had to call 911 for Bella, Rick and the children chime in it was Karen who saved Bella.  Any time Bella gets a simple cold, it usually goes into her chest, causing breathing to be difficult and a downward spiral to her health.

What Karen and Rick have done for Bella, not just for her as their child, but for thousands of children with special-needs, fighting for their rights and the perfect care, is above and beyond, making all of us realize afresh we are all created by the same God who loves each and every one of us, each with our own purpose to glorify God as He would orchestrate. Amen and amen and thank you, Rick and Karen Santorum for this beautiful, eye-opening book.  God Bless you and your family!

‘Til next time!

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons

A “Fear Not” a Day Keeps the Devil Away

Friends! Remember your parents telling you “an apple a day keeps the doctor away?”  I didn’t fall for that for long. To this day, I have to force myself to sit down and eat an apple. Don’t ask me why…

Fun sidebar:  A more interesting proverb about the apple first appeared in 1866 in Wales,

“Eat an apple on going to bed and you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.”

While most medical experts agree this isn’t true re: docs, some say the act of eating an apple can keep the pharmacist away. Do try this at home…

I have even better medical news (as in “prescriptions” to lower your stress, coupled with giving-peace-of-mind-news), thanks of course, to a book with my name on it. Not literally, but you’ll learn why this book jumped out at me recently…

The book? Facing the Future without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millennium by Lloyd John Ogilvie.

Lloyd was the  61st Chaplain to the U.S. Senate from 1995-2003. Prior to that he pastored First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California for twenty-three years.  He also authored fifty plus books!

Sadly, Lloyd John Ogilvie died just this month (June of 2019) at 88 years of age. U.S. Senator Mark O.Hatfield said to hear him preach was like experiencing a “living gospel.”

In an interview in 1989, Ogilvie said,

Now, to the book:  First off, and primo to remember, Lloyd teaches us there are 366 “Fear nots” in the Bible.  One for every day, including leap year! Thence the title of this post:  “A ‘fear not’ a day keeps the devil away.”

Each of the book’s twelve chapters are “prescriptions for courageous living.”  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d choose Prescription #9:

 

Lloyd took a survey of the causes of fear and many answered, “imaginary fears.”  He said, “Some went on to explain that many of their worst fears never happened. And yet they continued to be victims of their gloomy imaginations.”

Look at these ever-so-true words from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“Some of your hurts you have cured

And the sharpest you still have survived

But what torment of grief you’ve endured

From hurts that never arrived.”

It never occurred to me to confess our fearful imaginations to the Lord and BEGGING (my word choice, lol) Him to make our imagination “a channel of His vision and NOT a breeding place for fear.” Lloyd adds the importance and the dire need of our understanding what the Lord intended for our imaginations to do, that it must frustrate and distort His original purpose when we don’t consider such.  What a way to think!  Lloyd assures us if we do this, “then we can claim His power to live out each day as fearless, imaginative, and healthy Christians.”

Let’s reiterate those three adjectives!  FEARLESS, IMAGINATIVE, and HEALTHY!!!

Lloyd continues to define imagination for us:  It is:

“The God-given ability of the thinking brain to form and hold images of thought.

“The drama department of the mind, giving our ideas form and structure,

“It produces the motion picture version of our thought.”

And, if that’s not mind-blowing enough, we’re reminded of Joel 2:28-29 which says,

Lloyd said, regarding the above verse, “It’s not only the prediction of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, but it’s also the promise of the renaissance of the imagination.”  Friends, I HAVE NEVER CONSIDERED THIS BEFORE, HAVE YOU?

Frankly it was a relief to discover later in the chapter that Lloyd had never considered this before either until he kept reading Paul’s words regarding “the fullness of God.”

Let’s read Ephesians 3:17-19:

Now, tuck your toes under the table as they’re about to get stepped on:  Lloyd then asked himself this question:  “If I have been created to receive all of the fullness, have I responded with all of my life?”

He had the revelation he’d been using his imagination to promote fear, not faith, so he made a deep commitment to the Lord re: his imagination and prayed for the fullness of His Spirit to fill it, heal it and use it to help him see himself and other people and the church the way the Lord does. This was a huge “aha” for Lloyd and is also, I’m sure, for us readers! WOW.

The end of the chapter includes six points to recap the wealth of information we’re given in Chapter Nine. The sixth point is my favorite because it truly reminds us to bookend our days with prayer:

I must admit I was deeply saddened to learn of Lloyd’s recent death because I wanted to write him and tell him how much this book has meant to me.  Being fearful is one of my many activities du jour which produce ridiculous worry, thence the need to “readjust” my imagination just as Lloyd advises.

I nearly fell out of my chair while reading another faith-equipping book (which I’ll be writing about next!), called Bella’s Gift:  How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation by Rick and Karen Santorum with Elizabeth Santorum.

I’m sure y’all remember Rick and his run for presidency.  He tells us early into the book how Lloyd John Ogilvie transformed his faith, calling Lloyd a “great man of God.”  (This was while Rick got to sit under Lloyd’s preaching and teaching when he was Chaplain to the Senate!)

Finally, another big fan of Lloyd was author and pastor John Ortberg.  When John was a student at Fuller Seminary, he would sneak over to Hollywood Presbyterian (where Lloyd was the pastor) to watch and learn.  John said, “LLoyd John Ogilvie was a kind of statesman in the world of evangelical Christianity whose type is sorely needed and will be badly missed. He deeply valued the life of the mind and was a model scholar-pastor. At the same time, his commitment to a life of prayer and a fresh experience of intimacy with God shone thru’ almost every sermon…How good God was to lend him to us for a while.”

Dash away, dash away all to your nearest bookstore and grab Facing the Future Without Fear:  Prescriptions for Courageous Living in the New Millenium. You will be so blessed!

‘Til next time!

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons, Scripture

When Your Soul is Crazy-Cluttered…(With Help from John Ortberg)

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Yes, I am.”

“No,… you’re not. Your mind’s going in a million directions.”

“Is not.”

“Is too!”

Background concept wordcloud illustration of mental clutter

Such was a recent stand-off between Hubster and me. Guess who was saying what?

As God would orchestrate, I was reading Soul Keeping—Caring for the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. I was dumbstruck to discover I was in no way, shape, or form, caring for my soul.

DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

9780310275961r1

Clearly the Lord was trying to get my attention. I can only imagine His frustration at my little auto-pilot self. Gracious.

Praises be sung for the gift of John Ortberg’s book. His close relationship to Dallas Willard blesses us readers with Dallas’ insight too. He builds around this inspirational quote from Dallas:

“Our soul is like a stream of water, which gives strength, direction, and harmony to every other area of our life. When that stream is as it should be, we are constantly refreshed and exuberant in all we do, because our soul itself is then profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His kingdom, including nature; and all else within us is enlivened and directed by that stream. Therefore we are in harmony with God, reality, and the rest of human nature and nature at large.”

Young Children Exploring Nature On Wooded Path

Let’s look at the benefits a healthy soul has:

Strength,

Direction,

Harmony,

Constantly refreshed,

Exuberant (Anybody felt exuberant lately?) and

In harmony with God

Note this happens when we’re profusely rooted in the vastness of God and His Kingdom.

Here’s where we’d best plant our faces in God’s Word every day. Savoring scripture prevents our souls from crazy clutter.

But… (You knew that was coming!), if we allow ourselves to spin multiple plates, our soul will shrivel, becoming choked from clutter, blocking ways for God’s light, hope, and peace to shine thru’ us.

BEIJING, CHINA - JUNE 4: Balancing the spinning plates performed

Good news! John Ortberg serves up seventeen sensational chapters, each one dealing with different ways to nurture our souls, protecting them from our culture’s chaos.

Pictured below with our author, John Ortberg, are two of my very dear friends, Nancy Tinnell on the left and Kelly McDonald on the right.  In 2013, these gals attended the Leadership Institute at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS where John was a presenter.  Nancy is the Women’s Ministry Director and Associate Pastor of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation at Middletown United Methodist Church.   Kelly works at the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and is Engineer Extraordinaire of this blog.

nancy and kelly with ortberg

You can find out more about John on his website, www.johnortberg.com, or from the church where he’s the  pastor, at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church at www.menlo.church

Let’s address THREE temptations to watch for that can cripple our soul:

#1 – HURRY:

Dallas Willard once said,

“You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

As a new Mom, one thing I vowed I’d never utter to our boys was, “Hurry up!” That lasted until our firstborn was being a slowpoke for preschool, at the ripe age of two. Sigh…

#2 – CLUTTER

This section stopped me cold. Look at the below:

“The CLUTTERED SOUL becomes choked by worries, deceitfulness of wealth, and desire for other things.

The busy soul gets attached to the wrong things, because the soul is sticky.

The VELCRO of the soul is what Jesus calls ‘desire’. It could be desire for money, or it could simply be desire for ‘other things’.

We mistake our clutter for life.”

Oh, friends, if that’s not enough, there are more slap-you-silly sections : The Hardened Soul and the Shallow Soul. Advice? Read ‘em cuz we all need ‘em.

Bottom line: We must quit buying into our culture which applauds busyness. Our culture equates success with production, eighty-plus-hour workweeks, running circles around ourselves, burning the midnight oil for those it-seemed-like-a-good-idea at the time to-do’s.

Scarier…, John adds, “A person preoccupied with externals–success, reputation, ceaseless activity, lifestyle, office gossip—may be dead internally AND NOT EVEN RECOGNIZE IT.” Any alarms going off?

#3 – DISHONESTY:

Another soul disintegrator is dishonesty. Thankfully John’s humor in this section comes as a blessed relief:

Dan Ariely, author of The Honest Truth about Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone—Especially Ourselves, admits he’s “astounded by how widespread people’s tendency is to cheat, be self-centered, lie, and be deceitful.”

Honest Truth About Dishonesty

If you’re a grandmother of a college student, listen up:

Research shows “grandmothers are ten times more likely to die before a midterm and nineteen times more likely to die before a final exam.”

“Students who are failing are fifty times more likely to lose Grandma than nonfailing students…..the greatest predictor of mortality among senior citizens in our day ends up being their grandchildren’s GPAs.” (Please join me in laughing out loud. Are you following?)

young pretty female college student sitting in a classroom full

During our youngest son’s freshman year at the University of Kentucky, we experienced this scenario. First, Woody made the grave error of playing intramural football. Early into the season, he broke his collarbone. Badly. Required surgery in Louisville, and lots of time off from school. I prayed he’d pass his first semester.

Right on the heels of his return from surgery, my Mother died. That meant another trip to Louisville and two more absences. One of Woody’s professors found that hard to believe. I had to email her and tell her where to read the obituary in the Lexington Herald Leader.

Needless to say when I read about this research in Ariely’s book, I cracked up. However, cynicism had already slithered into my brain.

Case in point: Our recent bathroom remodeling project underwent multiple, bang-your-head-against-the-wall-delays. Last Monday our plumber couldn’t come because his grandmother died. Immediately I said to myself, “Oh sure, his grandmother died.” I know! Pitiful. Forgive me, Lord.

Good news: Our Good and Gracious God has knitted our souls to seek Him. When we’re sin sick, our souls still crave and need the right relationship with our Savior.  More grace.

Let’s return to God’s Word and claim what the psalmist says in Psalm 84:2

Psalm 84 2

Let’s hear from Isaiah in Isaiah 26:9 –

Isaiah 26 9

Webster tells us, “To yearn is to have an intense longing, or craving, or desire, or appetite, or hunger.” May we truly yearn for the Lord.

Bottom Line:

When facing a decision, ask yourself:

**“Will this situation block my soul’s connection to God?”**

I believe the Holy Spirit will give us the answer.

Cling to this:

Psalm 19 7May we prioritize care for our soul.

’Til next time!

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

What Can We Learn From A 92-Year-Old Prayer Warrior?

Friends!  I mustn’t let one more minute fly by without revealing a discovery I predict will change every reader’s prayer life.  It’s a delightful discovery because it’s based on the woman who inspired the character, Miss Clara, in the movie War Room. 

The book?  The Audacious Molly Bruno:  Amazing Stories from the Life of a Powerful Woman of Prayer

Molly Bruno is the incredible prayer warrior we become acquainted with. We get lovely sneak peeks into Molly’s life, thanks to her daughter, Marie Armenia, who authored the book.

The Foreword is by Stephen Kendrick of the Kendrick brothers who co-wrote and produced the movie War Room.  Molly became friends with them and with the cast (including Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, etc.) She especially became close with Stephen.

She prayed for the movie fervently during production, sadly passing away just as it came out. However, the crew sent her the movie early so she could see how it turned out. She declared she was proud of every single detail.

This inspiring book includes, get ready for this:  EIGHTY, count ‘em 80, Life Lessons from Molly.  Each chapter includes recipes for:

 

PLUS, the end of the book has two appendices:  One of the list of Molly’s Life lessons AND the recipe for Molly’s Meatballs!  What a resource to treasure!

First I’d like to share a couple of endorsements and then I’ll share just a few highlights without giving away too much of the book.  There’s so much you’ll be blown away by, I don’t want to spoil the discoveries for you!

Tim Enloe said, “The secret of Molly’s life was that she was wonderfully, unusually dependent upon Jesus.”

Ralph Duncan said, “Molly Bruno models how an ordinary mother can partner with God in shaping the world!”

Ivey Harrington Beckmann said, “Molly Bruno did not walk on water, but she was the hands and feet of Jesus wherever she went…Marie Armenia has captured the effervescent soul of her mom and given women the lifeline of Molly’s exceptional wisdom so they can navigate the rough seas of life with faith, hope, and laughter.” (Don’t miss that word “lifeline!”)

One of the first things we learn about Molly is revealed to us by her daughter, Marie.  Marie declares her mother was “a nuclear -powered witnessing machine.” We readers get to see Molly in action, first-hand.  Molly and Marie take us by the hand and mentor us along the way.

Marie tells us that prayer for her mom “was like eating candy to her—a sweet JOY to her.”  It was Molly’s way of living.  Her two-word solution was always, “Let’s pray.”  It’s not a coincidence that 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray continually.

Chapter Two contains one of my many favorite Life Lessons, #14:

This lesson came on the heels of 9/11 hitting in New York City, the very week Marie and her husband were moving her parents to Nashville, Tennessee from the Big Apple.  Lo, and behold, with the terrorist attack and all that came with it, there were no moving vans in NYC.

Marie kept trying to relay the severity of the situation to her mother who was not to be dissuaded, praying like she always did.  It wasn’t three more minutes until the phone rang and a man from a moving company posed the most curious question, “Does anyone there need a moving truck?”

No, I’m not kidding, and this kind of scenario is in every single chapter.  You will flip, I promise. (And don’t miss the chapter on dreams.  Uncanny and total proof our Lord is in every detail of our lives.)

And, I love Molly’s Life Lesson #16:  “If prayer is your first response in every situation, it will become your children’s first response in every situation.”  That should make us all parent differently, huh?

Chapter Four is hands down another favorite:  “The Recipe for Reading and Understanding the Bible.” Marie tells us her parents, who were married for seventy-two years, recited Hebrews 4:12 in unison every night before they fell asleep:

Marie reveals her son recorded her parents reciting Scripture together because what could be more beautiful than seeing this sweet couple in their 90’s, reciting Scripture?  Marie said, “It’s like they were memorizing their marching orders from their heavenly Commander in Chief.”

This rolls right into Molly’s Life lesson #27:  “There is no age limit on memorizing Scripture. Do it with your children and your grandchildren. And keep doing it until you see the Lord.”

Here’s where we need to call upon Rob Morgan’s excellent book, 100 Bible Verses Everyone Should Know by Heart for a little help.  Just a thought…

Chapter Seven is killer funny and killer convicting.  The subject? “The Recipe for Being a Wife.”

Here’s THE question:  “Would You Want to Come Home to You?”

Marie tosses us these two verses:  “Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife…Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:9,19

Yes, well, we all know the saying, “If Mama Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy.”  I remember hearing one of our boys saying, “Steer clear of Mom, she’s in a mood.”  Super proud of that.  Sigh.

Molly taught Marie, “The wife sets the tone for the home.”  And she takes it a step further teaching us to, “overlook what someone else was doing to me in an attempt to see why God was allowing it to happen…Nothing touches me unless God allows it. What is God trying to teach me by allowing this in my life? Is there something He is trying to dig out of my heart?”

Let’s discuss just one more wee, tiny point  and then y’all can dive into the rest of the book…Chapter Eight is the “Recipe for Being a Mom.”

One of my very first Bible studies I attended included the part in Genesis where Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his one and only son, Isaac, who he and Sarah had waited for for years and years, even decades.  (See Genesis 22) I could not grasp how in the world Abraham could have the faith and trust in the Lord to prepare his one and only son to be sacrificed.  (Still have trouble with it, truth be told. Still learning, Lord. Doubting Thomas is the first friend in Heaven I wish to talk to…)

I was struck by what Molly said to her daughter with faith as bold as Abraham:  “Marie , if you wind up in China because that’s God’s will for your life and I never see you again while we both live on this earth, that’s fine. I’d rather never see you again and know you are in the center of God’s will for your life than to have you live right next door to me and be out of the will of God.”

This, my friends, is HUGE.  Can you/could you say such?  I immediately thought of our friends, Nancy and Matthew Sleeth, whose two children and spouses and one granddaughter (and one grandson arriving this month, Lord willing) all live in Africa as missionaries.  I recounted Molly’s words recently to Nancy saying I’d thought of her with her kids clear across the world.  Nancy smiled and said, “Yes, but we will have eternity together.”  Gulp.  I realized at that very second my own petite faith had miles to go to reach that kind of trust.

Oh, now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag The Audacious Molly Bruno!”  There’s so much more to becoming acquainted with a quintessential, inspirational 92-year-old prayer warrior. Savor all eighty of her lessons and share them with your family and friends.

‘Til next time!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Life Lessons, Scripture

What’s Irresistible to You? Chocolate? Yes. Our Faith? Yay or Nay…

Friends!  Would your friends say you have an irresistible faith?  Anybody besides me want to reply, “Come back in a bit, I’m not quite ready for that question…”

Yes, well, let me fetch some chocolate while we ponder this together…

Recently I was delighted to be part of a committee to choose books for our upcoming book club season for fall 2019-spring 2020.  Seven slots to fill seemed easy, however five for five of us arrived at the meeting with ten to fifteen suggestions, each.  We were a vision of “so many books, so little time.”

One of the many recommendations I received, I also read.  It hit me between the eyes and my poor brain is still trying to process it..  The book?  Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian The World Can’t Resist by Scott Sauls. Scott pastors Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville where I’ve been blessed to attend a women’s conference with my good buddy, Madge, who lives there.

My favorite endorsement of this book comes from Duke Keon who pastors Grace Meridian Hill in Washington, DC:  “With biblical clarity, personal transparency, and a relentlessly winsome  spirit, Scott Sauls shows us how authentic Christianity is attractive Christianity. It’s a timely and reliable road map for those seeking to restore the damaged witness and public reputation of Christians…If you want to learn how the grace of God makes us the ‘light of the world’ in all of life, read this book!”

In his Foreword in the book, Bob Goff says, “This book is an invitation for us to return to the most authentic version of our faith. It’s also an invitation to join, or create, an authentic community of people trying to go somewhere beautiful with their faith.”

Bob has just painted a picture for us of what we experience in Bible study and small groups.  That’s exactly what we aspire to do, to “go somewhere beautiful with our faith.”  I love that!

Scott begins by saying what really bugs him is how many negative reactions the word “Christian” gets.  He quotes San Francisco journalist Herb Caen who said, “The trouble with born-again Christians is that they are an even bigger pain the second time around.”  OUCH…

Scott rattles off a dozen questions causing us readers to consider what it would look like for our love for the Lord and each other to be so contagious and so irresistible non-believers would want to know the source of our faith. His book offers some much-needed ideas and suggestions. It’s akin to an owner’s manual you’ll want to refer to often. (Scott, any fat chance you could create a pocket-size version for us???)

Scott asks,

I’m happy to report you’ll also get to laugh out loud multiple times.  Scott tells on himself and gifts us with fantastic quotes from other authors as well.  He confesses he finds “more satisfaction in the praise of people than he does in the grace of God.”  We’re all normal human beings and we simply forget the glory goes to God and belongs only to Him. This is not an easy subject matter, and Scott takes us by the hand to show us what irresistible faith looks like.

Brennan Manning says it best:

“I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games. Aristotle said I am a rational animal; I say I am an angel with an incredible capacity for beer.” (From The Ragamuffin Gospel)

Right about the time you want to ask, “Now what?” Scott reminds us if we keep a “steady diet of God-inspired words, aided and animated by the Holy Spirit, we’ll have nurtured, healthy, and solid souls.” He lists countless classic authors, musicians, all steeped in God’s Word giving us beautiful examples and a well-built case for keeping our noses in His Word.

A new-to-me and now favorite concept we learn about is found in Chapter 4, “Practicing Transparency and Kindness.” We discover a thought from Ann Voskamp that Scott’s church has now adopted, “only speak words that make souls stronger.”

He tells us,

The staff at Christ Presbyterian Church has come to “nurture a culture of benediction.”  They begin their staff meetings “by speaking life-giving words over each other.” Can you imagine the impact on each of them when their co-workers publicly praise each other one by one? What if we tried this in our homes with our beloved family? And friends? And anyone who crosses our path?

Scott teaches us “the universal Christian job description:  all Christians are called as Christ’s ambassadors into the places where they live, work, play, and worship, with the glorious purpose of leaving people, places, and things better than they found them.”

It’s living out Colossians 3:23-24:

Now you know what I’m going to say, “Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and snag a copy of Irresistible Faith.

‘Til next time!

P.S.  While reading this book, I kept thinking to myself that Scott should connect with Christine Caine as they really remind me of each other.  They both pack a punch with mega enthusiasm causing you to want to be on their team.  How like the Lord to have Christine as one of Scott’s endorsers.  She says Scott and his wife, Patty, are friends with Christine and her husband Nick! She goes so far as to say she loves everything Scott writes.  Amen and amen…

 

1 Comment

Filed under Book Clubs, Book Reviews

When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Friends! May I ask you a couple of questions?  When was the last time you sat under a tree simply to rest and reflect or, perhaps to take a nap?

Have you ever bought a tree purely because of a favorite memory?

Have you ever bought a tree to commemorate or celebrate a life?

In a group of almost 20 friends yesterday, they answered these questions in the affirmative on all levels.  I was right there with them.

There was a huge weeping willow on UK’s Campus when John and I were students there.  We loved sitting under it in between classes.  Time stood still while hearts hovered over our heads.

Fast forward to our current home. A few years ago, we purchased and planted a lovely weeping willow for our front yard. It greets us every time we pull in the driveway.  It, accompanied by now blooming dogwoods, are quite the tranquil sight to see.

I’m blessed to call author Dr. Matthew Sleeth and his lovely wife, Nancy, dear friends and mentors.  They popped into our lives thanks to my friend, Sherry Leavell’s daughter, Laura, who used to work for them.  God was beyond gracious when He crossed our paths.

Matthew has just birthed a fascinating book that’s already a best-seller on Amazon, he’s being interviewed on places like NPR, Fox News,  has written an article for Christianity Today  and The Washington Post, just to name a few. News of his book is spreading FAST.

One of Matthew’s many endorsers, Karen Swallow Prior, author of On Reading Well:  Finding the Good Life Through Great Books and Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah Moore:  Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist, says of Matthew’s book, “I never knew until reading Reforesting Faith how bountiful and significant trees are in God’s story of the creation, the Fall, and redemption. This book has deepened my love for God’s Word and His world even more.”

Matthew begins by sharing his early love of trees with us.  I suspect many of us resonate with him.

He poses an interesting question:  “What can trees teach us?  Specifically, what can trees teach us about the nature of God and His love for us?”

We learn:

Matthew takes us on a journey via thirteen chapters of his book, showing us how “every important character in the Bible and every major event in the Bible has a tree marking the spot.”  I’d never made this connection before.  You will drop your jaw as you see time and time again where God meets your favorite characters by a tree of sorts.

You will also laugh your head off in every chapter.  Matthew’s transparency and wit bless you on this journey.

His medical background enhances our understanding of the Gospel as revealed in the Bible, giving us visuals we can understand.  Same can be said for his background in carpentry.  Don’t miss chapter twelve.  Funniest story I can recall.

It’s not just a book of humor, however.  The fascinating facts about trees and how they correlate to the Gospel, and ultimately to us as believers, are nothing short of beautiful.  To see our God in action, in minute details, will blow you away.

Let me give you a couple of the numerous examples we readers receive:

“In the Old Testament,

Noah received the olive leaf (Genesis 8:11)
Abraham sat under ‘the Oaks of Mamre’ (Genesis 18:1)
Moses stood barefoot in front of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2-5)
Joseph simply is a tree! (Genesis 49:22)”

Now let’s look at the New Testament:

“Think of Zacheus climbing the sycamore fig (Luke 19:1-4)
The blind man seeing people as if they were trees walking (Mark 8:24),
The disciples gathering on the Mount of Olives (Luke 22:39).
Paul asserted if we have gone for a walk in the woods, we are without excuse for knowing God.” (Romans 1:20),

And, my absolute favorite illustration from Scripture:

Yes, Lord, may it be so.

Something happened in Matthew’s life which also happened in one of my dear friend’s life, which I suspect if you reflect back over your own life, you can pinpoint the same.

Let me explain. Before you came to faith, if you’re a believer, you may have heard Scripture, or a song, or read something about the Lord but it went in one ear and out the other.  You had “spiritual blinders” on.  And yet you can pinpoint the exact moment when you had an “aha” moment, when the light bulb blasted on and your eyes were opened. Think of Saul-turned-Paul on the Road to Damascus in the Bible. (See Acts 9,)

This happened to Matthew the summer before he started med school. He was doing some carpentry work in the home of a psychiatrist who had a fabulous stereo system.  The doctor played an album for him which stopped Matthew in his tracks.

Matthew said, “I heard trees and people singing together, and it was perfect. Maples were prominent among the trees represented. But spruce, ebony, willow, boxwood, and rosewood trees sang along too, and none tried to eclipse the others.”

Asking the doctor why it sounded so good, the doctor answered, “I think, among other things, it’s because they are using a dozen Stradivarius, Guarneri, and Amati instruments and they’re performing it the way it was originally played.”

We readers discover they were listening to Handel’s Messiah.  The version they were listening to was one “by the late Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music.”  Matthew adds, “and if you think the trees can’t sing, give it a listen.”

Matthew listened to this over and over, never considering the lyrics for thirty years, “until the hour I believed. Then I cried. I sobbed. I wailed. I grinned in delight. And I cried again.”

When I read this, I about fell out of my chair.  You see, my dear friend, Nancy Aguiar, had an identical experience.  I can’t remember milk at the grocery store these days, but stories rarely leave me.  Check this out:

When Nancy was in the 12th grade, she attended Frankfurt International School in Oberursel, Germany. (1970) In choir, she and her fellow students had months of preparation for this magnificent piece known as Handel’s Messiah.

Every day, day after day, they sang the glorious lyrics of Handel’s masterpiece, making certain they were all singing in their correct parts of harmony.

Nancy said, “It is a beautifully written score, it was a beautiful experience with a passionate doctor leading us (Dr. Morgenstern), with hands flailing, voices reaching way past the highest rafters, hearts beating rapidly…and yet I had no capacity to embrace what it was we were singing!  Just words to me!  No concept!”

She continued, “And NOW? Every single time I hear that amazing work, I sing my part (quietly) and  cry! How deeply I love that song after I met Jesus in 1979.  Makes all the difference in the world! What an anointed piece of work!” Nancy also grasped a handle on Handel.

Might you have a story like this?

Sidebar:  A children’s book comes to mind that was given to us by our cousin Russ, when our boys were little.  It would be a fun way to educate your children or grandchildren on George Frederic Handel.  Check out Handel:  Who Knew What He Liked by M.T. Anderson and Kevin Hawkes.  Beautiful illustrations! Don’t miss the details from the book of Isaiah and Handel’s lyrics for The Messiah coming straight from it. (See chapter 10 in Matthew’s book.)

Let’s return to Reforesting Faith. So as not to spoil the many discoveries awaiting you, allow me to share just one more pearl.  Speaking of pearls, did you know Jesus only referred to one gem in the Bible and it is a pearl?

Matthew teaches, “It’s no accident this gem is made naturally of both inorganic and organic material..we’re told the gates to heaven are made of this hybrid material.”

We then learn that in the same way, a fig “is the only fruit that’s made of both plant and animal.” It, too, is an “odd hybrid.”

When we see in Scripture the lion and the lamb lying down together (Isaiah 11:6 and Revelation 21:1-6)  or Moses’ burning bush, there’s yet one more combo’ Matthew reminds us of, that of “dead wood and lamb’s blood.”

He says, “In the hybrid world, nothing is as powerful as this combination. When the two were combined on a doorway at Passover, the lambs’ blood sealed the door shut. The angel of death could not get through such a door, and the people inside were ‘passed over’ and saved.”   This, in chapter twelve, is the beginning of yet another crescendo of facts and explanations that keep building until you finish the last page in chapter thirteen.  I can hardly wait to fill our family in on this!

Matthew also shares about a wonderful ministry called Plant with Purpose.  (Website:  www.plantwithpurpose.org) It aims to equip farming families around the to world to increase farm yields, heal damaged ecosystems, improve nutrition, and. Increase household savings and opportunities.  This integrated approach solves two major issues facing the world today:  environmental degradation and rural poverty.

Reforesting Faith is an eye-opening read.  Whether you’re a tree lover or not, you’ll become one and further your appreciation for God’s Word, His details and why He wants us to be like a fruitful tree.  Matthew ends with, “Grow, make the world better, and bear fruit.”  May it be so.

And now you know what I’m going to say:  Run, don’t walk to your nearest bookstore and buy this book!

‘Til next time!

 

Comments Off on When You Get a Handle on Handel: Discover Telltale Facts About Trees, Thanks to Dr. Matthew Sleeth

Filed under Book Reviews, children's books, Friends

I Will Never Yell, “Hurry Up!” to Our Children, And Other Motherhood Myths…

Friends! This Mother’s Day Week I thought I’d amuse you with some of my own horrific mothering no-no’s, show off our newest grandchildren (Oh yeah, I’m one of those—pics are at the end!), and then point you to a quick must-read for all parents and grandparents: Praying Circles around Your Children by Mark Batterson. It’s a powerful little paperback that will change the way you think and pray.

Praying Circles

First, here are some of my Motherhood Myths, and then we’ll get to the prayer tips:

I’ll never chuck a pop tart into the back seat on the way to school.” (Well, at least this didn’t happen ‘til child #3 arrived.)

I’ll never yell at our children before church.” (Yeah, that happened more than once: Verrry ugly.)

“We will never blow thru’ a drive-thru’ two nights in a row.” (That didn’t last thru’ the first soccer season.)

I’ll always realize what a blessing they are when they seem to be a pain in the you-know-where.” (I need to write this on a blackboard about a hundred times while begging the Lord for His forgiveness about a thousand times.)

I’ll never cry uncontrollably in front of them.” (Scares our boys silly.)

I’ll stop worrying about them when they reach age _____.” (Hasn’t happened yet.)

I’ll never forget they’re really on loan from the Lord.” (This is a primo reminder I’m suspecting we ALL need. Frequently.) PLUS, He loves them more than we do.

Don’t mess with these Motherhood Myths! While you’re at, pitch your own if you have any! Instead, begin with this beautiful Scripture:

Lamentations 2-19

Author Mark Batterson tells of a legend he discovered in the Jewish Talmud about a prayer warrior named Honi. Honi literally drew a circle around himself in the sand, and stayed there praying for much-needed rain, for mercy on the people of the village, and for favor, blessing and graciousness. He was ultimately honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.”

This eye-opening little book, Praying Circles Around Your Children, gives you loads of promises in Scripture to “circle” around your children. It gives you ideas for circling a place of work, or a school, or a piece of property, or a home, covering that concern in prayer.

“Circling” something or someone in prayer is really akin to:

I Thessalonians 5:17 which simply says, “Pray continually.” Mark recommends we endeavor to rev up the intensity and tenacity of our prayers.

Mark adds, “Prayer is the way we take our hands off our children and place them in the hands of God.”

Of the five prayer circles Mark gives his readers, the second one, Making Prayer Lists, is my favorite. Being a list maker (to a fault!!!), this idea grabbed me. Look at the verse he gives us:

“Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.” (Psalm 5:3 NLT)

What’s on your list? I have short-term and long-term requests on mine. I have a list of friends with health challenges. The blessing in seeing how God answers them is worth the time and effort of writing them down, plus you know the direction to keep praying.

Recently I drew circles in my journal and placed people in them according to their circumstances. The visual effect is comforting. Remember, tho’, these lists are not just your wish list.

Mark reminds us, “Every prayer, including your prayers for your children, must pass a twofold litmus test:

Your prayers must be in the will of God and for the Glory of God.”

I love one of Mark’s prayers for his children, “Lord let their ears be tuned to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit. I want my children to find their voice, and the key is hearing the voice of God.”

Don’t miss this warning: “If they don’t hear the voice of God, they will echo our culture.” Hello? Anyone aghast at the goings on of our culture???

Checkout the other prayer circles (I’ve only given you a snippet!) in the book. May we heed Mark’s closing remarks,

“Don’t lose heart.

          Don’t lose hope.

                    Don’t lose faith.

                              Keep circling!”

May we all be reminded of Psalm 127:3:

Children are a GIFT from the Lord; they are a REWARD from him…”

I loved seeing this Scripture on the wall of Central Baptist Hospital where our 3rd grandchild, Henry Pierce Hoagland was born in Lexington, KY on 4/22/19. Gordy and Lauren told us a prayer is said over the intercom every morning.

Here we are cuddling with Henry.  What a blessing.

John and Huck with Baby Henry

 

Yours truly with Baby Henry

 

Baby Ford (Woodford Lee Hoagland, Jr.) is now smiling! He is Woody and LT’s baby, born 3/18/19. Ford and Henry are five weeks apart to the day and almost the hour.

 

Claire and Diana at Dawn at the Downs Derby Week. Claire Elizabeth Hoagland turns 2 years old on 5/9/19! John Junior and Diana are expecting Baby Charlotte September 1st.  Let the games begin!

Have a wonderful Mother’s Day Week and Weekend!

‘Til next time!

 

5 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Family